Today, just as the Toronto Maple Leafs are practicing, we get word that Nikita Zaitsev is on IR with a lower body injury. Assuming this is retroactive to Friday’s game, he must stay on IR for one week, and is not eligible to play again until the Rangers game on December 23. He will miss two games at least, and if he stays out of the Rangers game, he can add the Christmas break to his recovery time.
The injury may have happened here:
Nikita Zaitsev takes a shot right in the blocker, heads to the bench in some discomfort pic.twitter.com/iUud8Hg4Qg— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) December 16, 2017
Zaitsev missed one shift after the penalty kill in the second, but came out again after the Leafs power play as he usually does. He played the rest of the game, getting in a regular looking number of shifts, and playing heavily in the third period.
The call up of Martin Marincin is not a surprise, he’s played very well for the Marlies, and has opened up his offensive game significantly there. He can stay on the Leafs for nine games or 29 days and then he needs waivers to be sent back to the AHL.
The call up is also a little strange, to be honest. The Leafs have an extra right-shot defender sitting right there in Connor Carrick. But the injury does give the Leafs a chance to look at Marincin again and re-evaluate his mix of skills and weaknesses. It’s always been obvious that Mike Babcock himself is no more sure of how those traits total up for Marincin than the rest of us are.
Zaitsev plays a lot of penalty kill time, so we should expect Marincin to slot in there for him. If he slots into his lineup spot with Jake Gardiner as well, we will have a very good chance to gauge his play in tough conditions along with the Leafs coaches.
This Tuesday afternoon game, just got very interesting.
Edited to add that Connor Carrick is drawing in first, and Zaitsev will be out until after Christmas.
Babs says Zaitsev likely gone two weeks (lower body), Carrick gets first crack playing with Gardiner. Coach is encouraged by Matthews solo skate, won't say if he will play before Christmas break affords three more days of rest and recovery.— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) December 17, 2017